Dating back to the early 2000’s, Ricky Williams was one of
the most dominant running backs in the NFL. Despite his on-field success;
Williams’ off-field troubles with drugs became the bigger story and led to
Williams deciding to retire early from football.
Realizing Williams still had the God-given ability to play
in the NFL after his premature retirement, Williams wanted a new start heading
into the 2004 season. According to NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus, Williams considered
not only switching his number from 34 to 21 to symbolize a new beginning, but
intended to change his name to Rio Don.
Williams was so taken by his idea of reinvention that he
signed a batch of footballs for his agent, "Rio Don, #21,” reported
There are plenty of athletes who decide to change their numbers to revitalize their career, but seldom do you see players changing their name while playing professional sports.
Unfortunately for Williams, no team signed him in 2004, including the Raiders—the
team he admired playing for. Williams was forced to sit out the entire 2004 season with no NFL contract.
Despite the failed transformation—that “luckily didn’t stick,”
Williams found himself back with the Miami Dolphins in 2005, where he finished
the season with six rushing touchdowns in 12 games.
Williams retired from the NFL for good in February of 2012
after one year with the Baltimore Ravens.
Who knows what would’ve happened if Williams had changed his
name to Rio Don and was given an NFL contract in 2004? Do you think he would’ve
had a more successful career with his new name and number?